Monday, December 04, 2006

...form of a hopeless dork

Some time ago, I was talking about superhero cartoons and mentioned that somehow people were under the false impression that the Wonder Twins activated their powers by touching their rings.

Then I talked more about it, coming up with a possible reason why this might be the case, even supplying pictures. To make a long story short (too late...), there was an earlier Hanna-Barbera cartoon called "Shazzan" that featured two teens who summoned a genie by touching two rings together and saying his name.

They've been showing some of these on Boomerang lately, and when Chuck and Nancy touch their rings together, they use the same sound as in the Wonder Twins' transformation. Technically, that should be the other way around, since "Shazzan" predates the Superfriends shows, but you get the idea.

I've dug up some video clips, and while you get to see Chuck and Nancy's ring thing, the familiar transformation sound is different in the opening credits.


Wonder Twins (as seen in the opening to the Superfriends)

I figured I may as well go nuts here with the anal-retentive superheroey clarifications, so something that sometimes gets confused with Shazzan is Shazam, the magic word young Billy Batson says in order to change into Captain Marvel. Honestly, I lay some of the blame on Hanna-Barbera for using such a similar word for such a similar circumstance.

Another part of the problem is that to a lot of people, Captain Marvel is Shazam, thanks to legal weirdness. I tried explaining this to my wife the other day, and I'm sure I'll screw up somehow, but here's the gist of it: Back in the '40s, Fawcett Publications unveiled their hero, Captain Marvel. DC Comics (then called National Periodical Publications), publisher of Superman, sued Fawcett in the '50s, saying that Captain Marvel was too similar to Superman, and in 1953, Fawcett stopped publishing the adventures of The Big Red Cheese (best superhero nickname ever).

In the early '70s, DC Comics licensed Captain Marvel from Fawcett and began publishing new stories, which would've been swell but for the fact that between the '50s and the '70s, Marvel Comics (home of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, etc.) had published their own Captain Marvel, which meant that DC couldn't use the name "Captain Marvel" in the title, so they went with "Shazam!"

DC later bought the rights to the characters, but Shazam remains in the titles of the comics. Here's the opening from an episode of the Filmation cartoon from the early 1980s:


Because of their red costumes with shared lightning motif, Captain Marvel is sometimes confused with the Justice League of America's resident speedster, the Flash. Here's the opening to his show:


And just to be petty, I should mention that one of my biggest pet peeves as a kid was when people referred to the Flash as Flash Gordon. Here's that guy, again from the folks at Filmation. If you like it, the show was just released on DVD, so knock yourself out.

Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon teamed up with The Phantom, Lothar and Mandrake the Magician on a later cartoon called "Defenders of the Earth," which was supplemented by a line of action figures. I got a few of these as a kid and picked up a Flash Gordon figure at an antique store a few years back. The figures were different in that while the rest of each figure was plastic, the forearms were cast-iron, which I guess gave them a little more heft when you used the power-action knob on the back. The cartoon also featured the heroes' children, Rick, LJ, Kshin and Jedda (not to be confused with the Volkwagen Jetta). This show is also on DVD now.

Flash Gordon should not be confused with

Chef Gordon Ramsey,

who should not be confused with Tootie Ramsey,

who should not be confused with Tutti Frutti,

which, of course, should not be confused with Scritti Politti

Is everyone clear on all this now?